Meridian Star


December 6, 2012

West's Ruffin, four Panthers lead area's All-State selections

MERIDIAN — Quitman High School followed up the best season in school history with an even better one and the Panthers were rewarded on the Mississippi Association of Coaches All-State team.

    Four Panthers were named to the Class 4A first team by the coaches, joined there by West Lauderdale linebacker Jarkeith Ruffin.

    While Ruffin was the lone Knight honored, Quitman went 13-2, recording the most wins in school history and reaching the South State championship game for the second straight season – last year's berth was the first time the Panthers advanced that deep in the postseason. That success led to a pair of offensive players and a pair of defenders earning first-team honors, led by offensive linemen Lance Lyon and Chris Berry. Lyon, a senior, is a guard, while Berry, also a senior, is a center and has also been selected to the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star game.

    They were matched on the defensive side by junior defensive tackle Eris Spencer and junior safety Tavarious Moore. Moore was second on the team with 78 tackles, also picking off four passes. Spencer, meanwhile, had 57 tackles and three sacks.

    Quitman also placed junior tight end Kyle Colston on the second team after Colston hauled in 12 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown. Noticeably absent, though, from the Quitman contingent was star quarterback Franklin Jones. The senior signal-caller threw for 1,441 yards and nine touchdowns, while rushing for 1,790 more with 29 touchdowns.

    Meridian High also had multiple selections, led by Class 6A first-team safety C.J. Hampton. The junior, who committed to Ole Miss prior to the season, had 48 tackles and three interceptions for the Wildcats, who made the first round of the playoffs. Meridian also had two second-team selections on offense in junior tight end Corey Davis and senior offensive lineman JaQarius Scott. Davis had 30 receptions for 323 yards and two touchdowns, while Scott recorded 14 pancake blocks.

    In Class 5A, Neshoba Central was unable to make the playoffs for the second straight season, however the Rockets still placed four players on the All-State team, two on first team and two on second team. Making the first team for Neshoba was junior defensive end Ken Edwards, following an 86-tackles, four-sack campaign; and junior punter Matthew Turcotte, who averaged 42.45 yards on 49 punts, downing 15 inside the opponents' 20. The Rockets placed two more on the second team in linebacker Thomas McCool and safety Shundrick Russell. McCool, a senior, racked up 139 tackles, getting double digits in each of the Rockets' first nine games. He also had two sacks and two interceptions. Russell, also a senior, had 82 tackles and four sacks.

    Philadelphia's undefeated regular season and return trip to the third round of the Class 3A playoffs netted three selections, headed by first-team cornerback Anthony Triplett. The senior had 11 interceptions, returning four for touchdowns, recovered two fumbles and had 40 tackles. Senior safety Kaleb Moore was a second-team selection with 89 tackles, including three games with 12, three sacks, four interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns. The Tornadoes' offense had senior guard Doug Taylor selected on the second team.

    Repeating as Division 5-2A champions, Union had two players honored on the Class 2A team, both selected to the first team. Tackle Jon Parker was selected on the offense and Jessie Gill, who dazzled as the Yellowjackets' quarterback as well, was honored for his work at safety.

    In the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools, both Lamar and Russell Christian had a pair of second-team selections on the all-classification all-state team. Lamar, which was edged in the second round of the playoffs by Brookhaven Academy, had offensive lineman Brett Stewart and running back Corey Skinner, both seniors, honored. Skinner rushed for more than 1,600 yards with the bulk of those coming behind Stewart.

    The Warriors, who won the MAIS 8-man state title, had defensive back John Epps and kicker Jacob Stephens selected. Epps, a senior, had four interceptions, 4.5 sacks and 62 tackles. Stephens, meanwhile, hit 66 extra points and a field goal in scoring 77 points for Russell in the wild world of 8-man football where two-point attempts are the norm.


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  • West West seeks to build mental toughness

    After a long morning of lifting, the West Lauderdale High School football team runs sprints across the practice field to wrap up each summer workout session.
    With the players breathing heavily after each set of sprints, the temptation to bend over to catch their breath is always present.
    But the Knight coaching staff won't have any of that.
    "Stand up!" they bark to the players bent over with their hands on their knees. Senior wide receiver Reed Green said he understands why there's a no-bending-over rule.
    "Bending down is a sign of weakness — that's what they tell us," Green said. "I understand what they're trying to make us do by not looking weak, but sometimes it gets tough, but you just have to do it."
    The Knights work out from 6 to 8:30 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays to help prepare for the season ahead, splitting time between the weight room and practice field for strength and conditioning. Every activity goes toward preparing the team for a long season, and assistant coach Glenn Boothe said even small things like not being over are important.
    "Toughness is a big thing," Boothe said. "The first thing you want to do when you get tired is bend over and show people you're hurting. That's one thing we're pushing here, that we don't want people to see us hurt. We want our guys to be standing tall in the fourth quarter."
    But there's more to it than simply projecting an image of strength.
    "What they don't realize is, when you bend over, it cuts their lung capacity," Boothe said. "They recover quicker when they stand tall."
    Football activities in a summer week for West include their three workout days plus Tuesdays at Meridian High School for 7-on-7s.
    "This gets them ready to play," Boothe explained. "You have to have your body physically ready to play the game of football. It's a collision sport, and this helps prevent injuries and gets them ready for the heat. When we start in August, we're looking at 100-degree days, and if they're in good physical condition, they're going to deal with that a whole lot better."
    Players like Green understand the importance of showing up every day and getting into shape so they're not behind when fall camp rolls around, Green said.
    "It's very important to be conditioned for the season," Green said. "We work out three days a week, early in the morning, and we're just getting better from it."
    Green said he's been pleased with his teammates' participation in the summer, especially amongst the younger players.
    "We have a bunch of eighth and ninth graders coming out, and I think this is more than we normally have," Green said. "It's been a real good summer so far."
    And Green said, as a senior, he's looking to help show the younger guys how to go about things the right way.
    "Being at workouts and giving your best and trying to compete and beat everyone around you is the right attitude to have," he said.
    Getting to practice at 6 a.m. is a lot earlier than most people normally begin their day, but Green said he's gotten accustomed to football activities at the break of dawn.
    "It's gotten a lot easier," he said. "My first year here was in 10th grade, and it was pretty tough then, but every year it's been getting a lot easier, and now it's just habit of getting up in the morning."
    The early mornings aren't meant to be an inconvenience for the Knights. Rather, they're the best time to get everyone out to workouts without it interfering with other parts of their days, Boothe said.
    "It's all about missing other things," Boothe said. "They all have jobs going on and other stuff going on with their lives, so we try not to interfere with that. This tends to be the best time to do that."

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